I got a call yesterday from one of the parents on the planning committee worried that the superintendent was about to march them off a cliff. Julio at the direction of the school board is trying to speed up the planning process so that the Board can start grappling with school closings and other decisions quickly. I assured the parent that their appearance before the board next Tuesday, two weeks earlier than originally planned, was not an attempt to side step them.
The committee had heard rumors that because Mary Cameron was going to be seated in January an attempt would be made to make decisions on school closings in December before she could be seated. I assured the parent that too many Board members would reject such a scheme and that Julio was much too smart to antagonize his Board with such foolish sleight-of-hand.
On the other hand, at our last meeting a last minute addition was made to the Board agenda which I raised objections too for just the same reason. We had discussed the possibility of early admittance of children into kindergarten the week before at the Education Committee meeting. There was no proposed policy change just a general discussion which our administrators seemed unimpressed with. Nevertheless, the Board agenda changed unexpectedly including just such a potential language change. Since policy changes require hearings at two consecutive Board meetings we could have made the change in the November and December Board meetings prior to Mary's seating. My objection was a parliamentary one. Our rules require that all nine Board members consent to late additions to the agenda and I pointed out that Bob Mars was absent.
The early admittance change was being championed by Eileen Zeitz. Unfortunately for Eileen she had not been at the Education Committee meeting the previous week. Eileen, who chairs the Ed Committee had left it to Pati Rolf to carry the ball but apparently Pati hadn't been properly coached. Since Eileen is about to leave the Board she may have taken our objections more personally than we intended them. In any event it will be Mary Cameron who votes on the change if it comes before us again.
The Monday storm had left us with six inches of snow and given our students an unexpected snow day. While the unexpected vacation freed my son and his generation it t just added to my burdens. I'll be expected to make a snow sculpture now and my work has been complicated because of our newly built patio. For the past fourteen years I could simply push my backyard snow around to the front. Now that we have a new fence I have to portage. First I must pile the backyard snow over our new patio steps then I have to start scooping it all over to push it to my front lawn. If I don't get my sculpture built twenty-five thousand cars will notice its absence every day. Ironically this is the first time in years I had a sculpture in mind in advance of Winter. Unfortunately six inches of snow is not enough for me to pull it off. I'll think of something.
Besides my yard's sculpture I agreed to let the Congdon Park PTA put my help building a snow sculpture on the auction block. To my amazement one family put in an eye popping bid for my services. They have a child who likes to sculpt so he'll be my apprentice. I have all winter to do the job but I don't want to put it off too long. Since the family lives across the street from Congdon school every child be watching to make sure we've done a good job. Oh, the pressure!!!
I heaped a small pile of snow in the front yard before putting in my second call to Brad Bennett's FIGHTLINE. It gave me a chance to practice snow plowing beforehand.
The show's first caller complained about how Minnesota was ranked 4th in the nation in the amount of taxes (all varieties) it collected. So after my hearty "semper fi" I referred to another ranking. I mentioned that while back in the 1970's Minnesota had ranked 5th among the states in K-12 spending we had fallen to 17th.
I also mentioned the conversation I'd heard earlier in the day in which a couple of economists contradicted something one of Brad's guests had just said. Brad's caller had suggested that with a recession underway all the states needed to tighten their belts. I told Brad that these two economists had said that while this was a typical reaction by government to recession such belt tightening also slowed down business as they lost government contracts.
Brad found this an odd argument and asked rhetorically if there had ever been a case of government spending helping end a recession. I asked him if he'd ever heard of World War II, John Maynard Keynes and the Great Depression. When Brad objected that I was using war to end a recession (an oddly pacifistic argument from such an ardent marine) he noted how the costs of the Vietnam war had gotten us into trouble. Of course, I pointed out that LBJ had also tried to finance the War on Poverty simultaneously. Two front wars will get you every time.
I moved on and reminded Brad that I still hadn't gotten an apology or an explanation for FIGHT's faulty accusation of deficit spending by the Board. However, I continued, I wanted to talk with Brad about another matter and asked Brad if is son was still into music. Brad's son was a singing star at Denfeld High School, a soloist in Summer Musicals and member of Solid Gold for four years running. Brad proudly said that his son had a four year music scholarship and, in fact, was performing that very night in a sold out UMD theater production. I congratulated Brad and told him that my daughter Keely was thinking about studying voice at the Boston Conservatory following college. I rhapsodized about Solid Gold and the Duluth East Choralaires and commented ruefully how sad it was that future students wouldn't have the same opportunities that our children had enjoyed because of the looming budget cuts. Brad suggested weakly that this might not be necessary if we just closed some buildings. I told Brad that it would take more than closed buildings to balance our budget especially if the Governor planned to take 10% of our state budget away.
"Well if you have to you have to." was about all Brad could retort followed quickly by a hint that it was about time for our conversation to end.
I warned Brad that I'd be calling again. Who knows, perhaps others will start calling FIGHTLINE once the School Board starts wielding its budget axe. It could be great for WEBC's listener ratings. For anyone that's interested, the number is: 720-4888. Brad's program airs on Tuesday's and Thursday's from 5 to 6PM. WEBC can be found at 55.6 Khz on the AM dial.
I'm not sure that other parents will be as nice to Brad as I've been.